Total War: Shogun 2 sees warlords fighting for total control of Japan and allows you to take on the role of one of these warlords to control armies and manage resources to fend off your rivals and become the country’s ruler or Shogun.
The game’s single player mode is effectively split into two major parts, with the turn based strategy element requiring the player to take the role of the clan leader, or Daimyo, and oversee the development of settlements and armies and providing financial and agricultural income.
The game’s battles take place in a real time strategy environment and see the player take control of the Daimyo’s generals, commanding sometimes vast armies of cavalry, archers and infantry. The game also features naval battles which see you take to the seas and command a variety of Japanese ships which resemble floating castles. Fighting is not the only way to progress however, as agents such as ninjas, monks and geishas can be used to weaken your opponents’ hold on towns.
Developer The Creative Assembly has put a lot of effort into re-designing the naval battles and the siege battles, where the invading force must scale and conquer the opponents keep, with an AI system inspired by Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
I must admit that I am not an experienced strategy game player, and I’ve not previously played any of the Total War games so I come at this game, and this review, as somewhat of a new recruit. Fortunately the game includes step by step tutorials for the uninitiated and features a detailed encyclopedia of every unit, building and character in the game. Playing through the tutorials it feels like a lot of information is present on screen, especailly as you are guided through using certain menus such as the diplomacy and clan screens. While the tutorial guides you with written and spoken (in a Japanese accent naturally) instructions and focuses you on a single task at a time it is still easy to feel overwhelmed as a beginner.
The game’s graphics are truly beautiful, with unrevealed areas of the campaign map represented with a 2D map that looks like it was drawn on old parchment with a quill, the most appealing looking fog of war I’ve ever seen. The revealed areas of the map show full terrain in 3D , with mountains and rivers dividing up the country. In the battles the maps are well detailed with weather and day and night adding to the tactical challenges you must overcome. Units are represented in the menu with beautiful hand drawn cards and on the battlefield they appear as sizeable squads allowing you to form ranks and files as you choose with a simple click of a button to present the most appropriate front to the enemy depending on the battle situation.
Battles are very tactical and require careful positioning of troops for maximum effect, something of a challenge to inexperienced players which is not covered in too great detail in the tutorials, but to veterans the ability to lay in wait in wooded areas to launch a surprise attack will certainly satisfy. Siege battles see you either attacking or defending a castle and its grounds, sometimes on multiple levels, with the aim of pushing through the defending troops to claim the castle’s keep (or fending off the invaders if you are said castle’s occupier). This seems as though it can be a little hit and miss at times, with even the tutorial not being particularly clear on the best strategies to employ and the basic ‘spam it with everything you’ve got’ is occasionally all it takes.
The atmospheric music on the campaign map which, added to the beautiful art, really creates an immersive feeling for this detailed game where diplomacy, spying and trading are as important as the battles. The voiceovers from your advisor and other in game characters seem in keeping with the period in which the game is set, although the acting can be a little wooden at times.
The gameplay and core mechanics of the game remain close to the series’ heart, which may be a relief to Total War veterans who won’t have too many changes to complain about, and who will find this the best in the series and will be eager to snap it up however on the flip side they may find there is not enough new content or gameplay elements to make the game seem fresh.
While the developer seems to want this game to function not only as a sequel, and re-imagining of the original, but also as an introduction to the series for those new to Total War or the strategy genre as a whole, in my opinion it is a little overwhelming in terms of the number of elements under your control and the level of tactics required in the battles and I would advise those who haven’t played any strategy games previously to try something simpler, such as Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution as a gentler introduction to the concepts involved in the genre.
|Great for series fans, strong engaging campaign mode.||May not be enough new content to keep things fresh, steep learning curve|